A BIG BOOM and when the smoke clears we all Suspect Pop Corn Jack!

CLICK on a Picture for a larger view.

Special thanks to Rob Batchman, Dan Rockafellow and David Yonke for the pictures. Thanks
to all of you that prayed for us as we were all blessed by this difficult trip!

November 17th - 18th a nice Saturday morning at 8:00 am a group of Royal Rangers and friends
head out to Bower Hollow Falls south of Ponca Arkansas. The group of 15 experienced 2 days
of 61 degree tempetures with lows on Sunday morning at 37. Mostly sunny and little wind.

The group left Mark Jones house in Ozark and headed out about 8:30 am. A church van, a
suburban and a Jeep headed the 109 miles due south.

Rob Batchman took over the navigation and took us down some back roads to arrive at Bower
Hollow Trail Head at about 10:45 am. (He still wanted to take the wrong turn we took 3 years
ago but I put him on the left turn and after some hard thinking he agreed..GRIN)

The trail was rated by Tim Ernst as difficult with a top 5 star rating on scenic. We headed
down the trail which was barely discernable the farther we got in the less and less the trail
could be found. With past tornadoes and past ice storms we must have climbed over or through
at least 50 trees down across the trail. I considered this trail a difficult trail for
Royal Rangers...do able but only for the older boys.

The trial-trail took us twisting down through the hills and woods down 300 feet. After about 2 miles
we bushwhacked down a ravine and walked in on the top of Bower Hollow Falls.

It's funny little things that make a difference some times don't dawn on us until it's not there.
Last time we were here was in March. The sun was higher in the sky and shone in this Hollow. This
time the sun barely made it over to the North face of the hollow.

WE quickly setup base camp and stowed our gear filtered some drinking water and bushwhacked up 3/8 of
a mile to the barely recognized trail. This is no easy trail. Often you stop, wondering are you
on a trail? Looking around you have to stop and find a opening in the bush and trees hope it's the
right way. The old logging road is covered with trees and seldom can you walk it as the trail switches
back and forth many times. I am thankful for the loggers that blazed these trails over a hundred years
ago. They paved a way for many of the trails we go on. This logging road was almost back to nature.

It was a challenge to reference the gps and the lay of the land and the creeks to find our way.

Soon after a mile we we rounded the corner to find McClure Falls. A cool over hang up on top of the falls.
The boys spent about 45 minutes exploring around and some sat around the over hang built a fire and cooked
a can of beans that had a good expatriation date they had found down there. It's fun. It's a challenge and
the boys worked together to get a fire, cook the can share a spoon whittle spoons out of limbs. Lot's of
photo's were being taken by Dave and Dan and I did some HD video. It's a cool place to hang out and you can
hear the waterfall trickling.

Time is always pushing us on. So walked a short distance around the cliff to Smith Falls and my backpacking
buddy Rob climbed down a tree to the base of the falls...a natural ladder down and back up the falls.

I often fall short by being a time keeper and a schedule keeper and stick to the plan kind of guy...and
this day was no different. Ok..it's time to hike out...we are not going to be walking back to base camp in
the dark on my watch...GRIN! NOT today. We talked Rob back up the tree out of Smith Falls and had everyone
ready to go... Where is the trail..we can walk back the way we came or try and find the trail...now mind you
these woods are twisty curvy and it's very easy to get turned around. Let's check the GPS to see where the trail
is... boys you have any batteries? My GPS is dead. It started getting quieter and quieter as we went around asking
for batteries. Well I think the trail is up there somewhere... Dan said..you have batteries right? I pulled two fresh
batteries out and off we went again. We have to make these boys think.

Backup the 300 foot rise a mile up then back down 300 feet 3/8 mile to base camp we arrived at about 4:30 pm and the call went out
for fire wood. That pile came together fast. The old fire ring was about 12" high with rocks and ole suet so we
cleaned it up leveled it out dragged up more rocks and made Flintstone furniture. Soon they were all busy with rock
remote controls and cold stone foot rests. I just grinned and soon we had a fire going and these group of Ranger
guys were cooking up a feast.

Fifteen guys around a fire can get crowded. Dave and Jonathan built a side fire down in the dry creek and were about 75'
away about 5:25 life was good most of us had eaten or were in the middle of cooking and all of a sudden BOOM and a
big cloud of steam and ash rose up and a look of surprise was on all our faces. Dave and Jonathan had a priceless
expression on their faces..one of dis belief another of utter surprise. The firecraft teaching of exploding rocks was
on all our minds. When it happens to you as it will..cause it takes us all by surprise from time to time. No one was
hurt but (people are killed each year by this very thing) we considered ourselves blessed and as always when something
scary happens us men we have to laugh it off...in the back of our minds we log it down to not do that again...!

Well after the smoke cleared and our bellies were full it was about 6:00 pm and we had one of the earliest council fire
services on record. When it's pitch black at the Winter solstice and your down in a holler and your belly is full and
the fire is blazing....it's just a good timing for a early council fire. I had my backpacking buddy Rob read the trail
review and tell us all about the area and he came across some data I had missed in those 5 pages of text and pictures..

Seems that along time ago a guy named Pop Corn Jack lived in these hills and he was mean. He was so mean that when
he found folk in this neck of the woods..especially boys he would catch them tie them up and dangle them over the Bower
Hallow Falls and leave them their until someone came looking for them and cut them down. Well he had this donkey and
that donkey had enough of Pop Corn Jack and the Donkey Killed Pop Corn Jack. They said the donkey knew where Pop Corn Jack
kept his Gold but disappeared one day in the woods before they found the gold. Rumor has it still today folks can hear
Pop Corn Jack yelling in the woods. Now mind you I seem to have missed this information in the book and thanks to the
careful skills of Rob he was able to point these "facts" out to our backpacking group. Robs story did loose some
creditability when he read that in the 1800's Pop Corn jack had a leer jet and a Mercedes stashed somewhere down here.

The boys didn't quite go for the story after they heard that. I was wondering if I had given my backpacking buddy Rob the
Sam's Throne print out because the story was similar.... who really knows... Rob claims it all to be true. So we spent
the better part of Saturday night and Sunday looking for traces of Pop Corn Jack. Then after some good laughs and Pop
Corn Jack calls we got into the evening service. A time of sharing very similar to the Butterfly Effect. All around
the fire shared one thing they were thankful for. Many things were shared and hearts were strengthened.

I hit my tent at 8:00 pm after almost falling into the creek. I saw 2 others do the same thing..it was a tricky spot..the
light made it look like black dirt when in reality it was a black hole! Yet it livened up the party. I would say lights
were out for almost everyone by 10:00 pm.

Saturday morning the temps in the 37 degree range no direct sunlight it was a cool morning. At 6:30 am I could hear the
fire being kindled. We soon all gathered at the fire and told our tales of the nights toll on us with the usual rocks, cold,
hot, snoring reports. All entirely true with a few embellishments.

Morning devotion was on Romans 6 chapter. The group was challenged to do what was right and to rely on the Holy Spirit
to help them along the way in this life. We all then shared one thing we would like to do or see done sometime in this
life. I told the boys of course we all want to go to heaven so that is a given but what else would you like to see.

Morning Church closed and we went for a hike into Bower Hollow Falls. Beautiful. Just awesome. Every step a oooo awww
wow! For a good hour we explored and enjoyed this very awesome place. While the sun was lower on the horizon we still
enjoyed the sights and interests found in that hollow.

At 11:15 a.m. we were all packed up and Bushwhacking out. It's a steep walk back up 200 feet to the trail in a 1/4 mile but
once on the trail it was 1 hour and 10 minutes to the vehicles. We stopped about 5 times for a 5 minute break a snack or
a drink of water. The plan was to visit Hawksbill Crag on the way out. All the way out.. Pop Corn Jack was being
discussed. GRIN! These guys are fun!

Hawksbill Crag. I was amazed to see 20 folks on the trail to this place. The path was well marked and well worn. A very
scenic hike. We saw some rappelling going on there. Mainly folks of all ages from 4 months old to 70 year olds on this
trail. I have never seen a trail have so much activity as this one did. You have to go there to appreciate the views the
rock formations. It's worth the trip to go see. I had never been to this Most Popular Trail. It was worth the 2.8 mile
walk in and out. It was a few hundred feet drop but a easy trail compared to the bushwhacking we had just done at

Boys had to have a McDonalds Happy hour stop at Harrison Arkansas on the way back. A great time was had by all and
we can't wait to do the 25 miler in December. This 12 mile outing event was a blast.

Mark Jones